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Full text of "My Country And My People"

226          MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

VII. LITERARY REVOLUTION

A literary revolution was in fact necessary, and a literary

revolution came in 1917, led by Dr. Hu Shih and Ch'en Tuhsiu,

advocating the use of the spoken language as the literary

medium. There were other revolutions before this. Han Yu in

the T'ang Dynasty had revolted against the euphuistic style

of the fifth and sixth centuries, and advocated the use of a simple

style, bringing it back to a saner literary standard and giving

us a more readable prose. But it was by going back to the early

literature of the Ghou Dynasty. This was still classical in point

of view; it was only trying to imitate the ancients, and it was

not easy. After Han Yii, literary fashions fluctuated between

imitating the Ghou Period and the Ch'in-Han Period, and when

Han Yii himself became sufficiently ancient, the T'ang Period

also became,  at different times,  a great period itself for

imitation*   The Sung people imitated the T'angs, and the

Ming and  Ch'ing writers imitated the T'angs and Sungs.

Literary fashions became then a battle of imitations.

Only as late as the end of the sixteenth century did there rise a
man who said that "modern people should write in the modern
language," showing throughout a sound historical perspective.
This was Yuan Chunglang, together with his two brothers.
Yuan dared to incorporate words of ordinary intercourse and
even slang words in his prose, and for a time he obtained
great literary vogue, with a school of followers known as the
Kung-an school (Kung-an being the name of Yiian's district).
It was he, too, who advocated the liberation of prose from
current formal and stylistic conventions. It was he who said
that the way of writing essays was just to take the words down
as they flow from your "wrist," i.e., from your pen. It was he
who advocated a personal, individualistic style, believing that
literature was but the expression of one's personality, hsingling,
which should not be repressed.

But the use of commonplace and slang words was soon
frowned upon by the orthodox court critics, and this author
received nothing except epithets like "frivolity," "inelegance,"
"unorthodoxy," in all histories of literature. Only as late as